What power do the main characters in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck exert?

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John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men targets the lives of migrant workers during the depression.  Men searched for work to help their families survive. Other men who lived lives of quiet desperation worked to achieve their dreams of independence and freedom from wandering.

The story is not one of power.  It is the lack of power that urges the characters on in their quest for a piece of the American dream.  The characters of Lennie Small and George Milton have a dream which will probably never come true. It is the hope that pushes them on that despite the powerful forces that work against them. George does have power over Lennie sometimes.  When George is not around Lennie, anything can happen.

George has been given the responsibility of Lennie for life.  His inner strength and character will not let him break the promise that he made to Lennie’s aunt.  Lennie is a burden to George particularly when Lennie forgets what he has been told and gets himself into trouble.  If George had the capacity to be powerful, he would get that farm and take Lennie away from the hard and friendless life they lead.

George grows as an individual throught his  care of Lennie.  At one time, he abuses Lennie for his own enjoyment.  However, he learned that there is no fun in hurting the weak.  Now, he has become Lennie’s father, brother, companion, and caretaker.  If Lennie did not have George, he would not survive.

Lennie is a huge fellow who does not know his own strength. His intellectual ability is childlike.  Strength, retardation, and temper do not go together.  When pushed to the limit, Lennie’s power ends his own life.

He pets too hard, he touches too hard, he breaks hands, and he chokes the life out of things. Up until this moment in the story, George has always been able to save Lennie.

The pair has a dream that will take them out of the rat race of being around people who are hard and insensitive. George and Lennie are different:

George says: “With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin-in our jack jus-because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody give a damn.  But not us.”

But this time he has killed a person, and George’s clout is useless.

The horrific mistake happens and Lennie gets scared and kills Curley’s wife. Curley will never let this go. When George realizes that the only way to help Lennie is to shoot him before Curley can find him, George must exert his powerful inner strength.  Regardless of the results, this is an act of love by George.  One that George will never get over. 

In the end, George will be free to do whatever he wants; however, he has lost his companion which separated him from the other workers who have no one. His dream is gone with Lennie—a paradise where there would only be animals, friends, and happiness. 

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